This is an appeal from a summary judgment granted in favor of a class of certified employees of the Macon County Board of Education represented by Lindsey Ray and William Brassfield. Rosie O'Neal and Cleta J. Martin represent a class of noncertified employees of that Board.
Interpretation of Act 83-575, Alabama Acts 1983 (providing for the establishment of a parimutuel racing facility in Macon County) is at issue in this case. It provides for funds generated from the racing facility to be distributed to certain agencies in Macon County, including the Board and its employees. The portion of that Act at issue here is § 15, which reads in part as follows:
The issues presented for review in this case are (1) whether the trial court erred in finding that § 15(a)(2) is unambiguous as it relates to the disbursement of the subsidy and (2) whether the trial court erred in granting a summary judgment.
Justice Merrill, writing for this Court in Alabama Industrial Bank v. State ex rel. Avinger, 286 Ala. 59, 62, 237 So.2d 108, 110-11 (1970), set out the principles applicable to statutory construction:
The noncertified employees contend that § 15(a)(2), supra, is ambiguous and insist that the words "pro-rata basis salary subsidy" must be construed so as to require disbursement of the proceeds on an equal or "per capita" basis. The certified employees contend, and the trial court agreed, that these words are not ambiguous and literally require disbursement of the proceeds on a percentage or "pro rata" basis commensurate with a particular employee's salary.
Is the term "pro-rata basis salary subsidy" ambiguous? The American Heritage Dictionary of the English Language (1st ed. 1969) defines "pro rata" as "In proportion." Black's Law Dictionary (5th ed. 1979) at page 1098, defines "pro rata" as follows: "Proportionately; according to a certain rate, percentage, or proportion." Ballentine's Law Dictionary (3rd ed. 1969), at page 1012, defines "pro rata" as "In proportion; proportionately according to the share, interest, or liability of each person concerned. Home Insurance Co. v. Continental Insurance Co., 180 N.Y. 389, 73 N.E. 65; in proportion to some rate or standard, fixed in the mind of the person speaking or writing, manifested by the words spoken or written, according to which rate or standard the allowance is to be made or calculated. Rosenberg v. Frank, 58 Cal. 387, 406." In VIII Oxford English Dictionary (Reprinted 1961) at 1399, "pro rata" is defined as "in proportion to the value or extent (of his interest), proportionally."
"[P]ro-rata basis salary subsidy" can only mean a subsidy in proportion to the salary being received. In other words, a salary subsidy calculated on a pro rata basis. This language in the statute is unambiguous, and the clearly expressed content must be given effect. Alabama Industrial Bank v. State ex rel. Avinger, supra. In his order granting summary judgment, Judge P. Dale Segrest stated this as well as it can be stated:
A summary judgment is proper when there is no genuine issue of material fact and the moving party is entitled to a judgment as a matter of law. Rule 56(c), Ala. R.Civ.P. The noncertified employees insist that there were genuine issues of material fact before the trial court, thus making a summary judgment improper. However, our review of the record reveals that there was but one dispositive issue before the trial court, namely, the ambiguity vel non of § 15(a)(2) supra. That issue was purely
The judgment of the trial court is affirmed.
TORBERT, C.J., and FAULKNER, ALMON and BEATTY, JJ., concur.